Why SEDRIS: The Gap that SEDRIS Fills

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Trends Impacting Environmental Data

The cost to acquire, tailor, and use environmental data will decrease as the information technology market's reliance on environmental data and its needs to use and share such data increases. This, augmented with the continual improvements in acquisition methods of raw data that also reduce the cost of getting such data, will create rapid growth markets where environmental data will be an integral part of the applications that serve such markets.

These trends have already been observed in the modeling and simulation sector for some time. The infusion of networking into traditional modeling and simulation has dramatically increased the rate of change. Although the scale and the size of the modeling and simulation sector are smaller in contrast to the total IT market, the leading indicators are nevertheless prominent.

We have seen the shift from standalone to networked simulation, based on the value and the promise that distributed interoperable systems bring forth. The demand to implement and conduct joint (environmental) simulation-based applications and enterprises is being realized. The value of interconnecting multiple (sometimes rather diverse) applications such as visualization, analysis, virtual, computer generated entities and others has been demonstrated.

As a result, the need for a common environmental architecture that can bring multiple domains together and close the gap becomes more apparent. If such consequences were not recognized and addressed, the impact of these trends would become painfully apparent in a few short years. As the trends continue, representation and sharing of environmental data will clearly play an important role in fulfilling the market demands.

SEDRIS fills this gap. Since SEDRIS is about representation of environmental data (not just visual or modeling & simulation systems), anyone interested in describing, interchanging and, in general, making their data available or needing access to others' data through a uniform mechanism would be interested in what SEDRIS has to offer. This includes a variety of markets that deal with environmental data, including the meteorological and oceanographic community, the communication sector, the simulation sector, environmental planning and management, the geographical information systems community, the military operational community (i.e., C4I), emergency response systems, and many others.

Open Standards for Commercial Growth

An important factor in ensuring growth in emerging markets is to allow for innovation and competitive advantages, and at the same time retain the importance of common, standard and open interfaces. This is especially critical when infrastructure technologies are involved.

Often a common tendency in many business organizations is to compete for and establish (and eventually permeate) infrastructure technologies so the organization's commercial success can be assured by dominating the market. Yet it is interesting to note that most successful organizations, especially in the IT market, generate the majority of their revenues from the value-added applications that rely on those infrastructure technologies, and not from the development of the infrastructure technologies themselves.

Open standards, when done correctly and in a timely manner, can be a strong catalyst in promoting growth and innovation while protecting the proprietary nature of value-added applications. In and of themselves, infrastructure technologies and the open standards supporting them are not a growth-market. But the applications that are built upon them can be.

When business organizations recognize this, they shift their focus from competing to dominate based on infrastructure technology, to competing to provide the best value-added content and/or the most cost-effective applications. Take HTML as an example. Not many (although some) make money from directly working on HTML itself as a standard or enabling technology. The significant business potential (and growth) on the web is based on second or third order effects of HTML by building content based on HTML, or by using the content to achieve a business objective in a manner more efficient than before. Making this distinction is critical.

The SEDRIS project recognized this from the onset, and has reflected this in its approach and development. We've already seen the fruits of this in areas that are using SEDRIS. It makes them more competitive because the focus and energy shifts to value-adding to the data content and quality, once the impediments of representation and sharing are removed by SEDRIS. For example, the tools built on top of SEDRIS are paying significant dividends by allowing examination of database syntax, content, and quality. In addition, the issue of a common representation, therefore a common method of interchange, does have significant cost savings by eliminating the maintenance and/or development of multiple conversion (interchange) software investments. We're beginning to see this in practice among data providers, as well as traditional simulation database toolmakers.

SEDRIS fills the gap by providing a common, non-proprietary, open standard for sharing environmental databases.

More Interoperability through Better Interchange

Interoperability and interchange are sometimes assumed to be synonymous. They are not. Interchange of data, successful or not, does not guarantee interoperability. Too often people equate their ability to move data between two systems, to interoperation of those systems. This is analogous to expecting two individuals to understand each other simply because they have been able to talk. As we know from daily interactions, such things as language barriers, use of domain-specific words and the medium used to conduct a conversation (e.g. noisy rooms or noisy telephone lines) can all impede a true mutual understanding. Interchange of data between any two IT applications (for example, two heterogeneous systems) is no different.

However, a robust and successful interchange mechanism is a critical step in ensuring interoperability. Good interchange means using a mechanism that does not introduce noise in the medium, employs clear and unambiguous syntax and semantics, and does not resort to cumbersome or unwieldy formats.

Even after a good and robust interchange has been effected, there is still no guarantee of interoperability. Again, using the natural language analogy as an example, even if two individuals use the same language, are not impeded by noisy mediums and use understandable words and phrases to form clear sentences, does not mean they have understood each other. One may be speaking about a subject that requires considerable background and context for it to be understood by the other. We recognize that with poor interchange mechanisms such exchanges would be even more difficult to comprehend. But, similarly, we also recognize that having a good interchange mechanism still does not guarantee interoperability.

Good interchange is about understanding the data clearly. Interoperability is about understanding the information that such data carries, and being able to act on it.

Therefore, a good interchange mechanism becomes a pre-condition and a critical step to interoperability. This is the other gap that SEDRIS fills for the interchange of environmental data.

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Last updated: April 26, 2004